I remember waking up one morning in agony.
I tried to get up to walk to the bathroom but every bone and joint in my body seemed to be inflamed. I can only describe it as being similar to that feeling you get when you have the flu and your whole body aches. Strangely, my ankles and jaw were hurting me the most.
My mum had suffered badly with osteoporosis and I was frightened that I was going through the same thing.
As the day went on, the pain seemed to subside and eventually I forgot all about it. That is until the following morning when I woke up in even more intense pain. I was as stiff as a board and almost had to crawl to the bathroom. I was so distressed, not just by the pain, but by the thought that at only 50 I was hobbling about like a woman twice my age. A terrifying thought crossed my mind. Was I developing rheumatoid arthritis or even osteoporosis? My mum had suffered badly with osteoporosis and I was frightened that I was going through the same thing.
It never crossed my mind that joint pain was connected with the menopause and that a lack of estrogen could cause so many different symptoms.
My first thought was to book an appointment with my GP but by this time I felt like he was probably fed up with me and my various ailments. He must have thought that I was a hypochondriac as I had something different to complain about at each visit! Instead, I decided to consult Dr Google and in the process scared myself nearly half to death. At the time, I was also suffering with severe anxiety and seeing the list of possible illnesses fed into my feelings of fear and dread.
It never crossed my mind that joint pain was connected with the menopause and that a lack of estrogen could cause so many different symptoms. Experts are still not sure exactly how, but the reduction in the level of estrogen in our bodies can affect the joints, ligaments and tendons causing tension, swelling, stiffness and creaking. Falling estrogen levels also wreak havoc with the body’s production of collagen. That’s a problem as collagen is rich in amino acids which play an important role in the building of joint cartilage.
My Top Tips
Drink more water
It may not seem an obvious solution but dehydration can actually lead to a build up of uric acid which can cause inflammation around the joints. We lose about 2 litres of water each night and so we need to do our best to replace the water we’ve lost. I drink about 3 litres of water a day – yes, the bathroom trips can be an inconvenience – but in the long run, your body will thank you!
Take calcium, magnesium and vitamin D
It’s long been known that calcium is essential to maintaining healthy bones. Our bodies cannot naturally produce calcium and so we have to eat calcium rich foods and/or take supplements. Dark greens and fruits are rich in the mineral. Magnesium and Vitamin D are also vital in maintaining healthy bones.
Anti-inflammatory and analgesic herbs
If pain and inflammation are affecting you, you could try taking chilli peppers, turmeric or cat’s claw. These natural herbs and supplements can help to relieve pain and swelling.
Make sure you’re wearing the right bra
The wrong bra fit can cause back pain or make existing back pain worse. It can also affect your posture which in turn affects your ligaments, joints and tendons.
For me, HRT was the answer but it may not be the right thing for you. Speak to your GP about available treatments and find out what is best for you and your body.
Be kind to yourself
Some days are worse than others and even after treatment you may still have the occasional flare up. Don’t let this get you down. If you need to take some time out for yourself, don’t feel guilty or feel like you are neglecting your responsibilities. If you need a duvet day, have a duvet day! Our bodies are going through a great change and sometimes we just need to give ourselves time and space to adjust.